Safford Wine & Art Festival draws a crowd

Breanna White sings the National Anthem to kick of the inaugural 2017 Safford Wine & Art Festival. - Gila Valley Central Photo

By Brooke Curley

SAFFORD – Music, art, history and wine, together they make the Safford spring day just a bit sunnier.

The inaugural Safford Wine & Art Festival kicked off at 10 a.m. Saturday morning with music and a quick speech from the Safford Mayor Jason Kouts.

“It’s been in the making (for a while), and hats off to Mr. Pat O’Donnell,” Kouts said. “I call him Mr. O. I remember him in school; that’s how young we are. He’s doing a tremendous job with the chamber and promoting our local businesses here and helping them keep on going because that’s what makes our city great is our local businesses.”

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Safford Mayor Jason Kouts greets everyone attending the festival with a warm welcome.

Graham County Chamber Director Patrick O’Donnell welcomed the crowed to the two-day events.

“Thank you for being here and welcome,” O’Donnell said. “We are looking forward to the opportunity for a couple days of just enjoying the Arizona wines, having some vendors, especially the artists, and learning a little bit more about the history that’s associated here with the city of Safford.”

Hal Herbert, of the Graham Historical Association and Restoration Committee, waited in a booth and was signing people up for the local history tours of Red Knolls and the Safford Main Street.  When asked why he chose Red Knolls as a location to take tours, Herbert said it was a location that older individuals would remember and the young should be acquainted with.

“It used to be a playground for this area,” Herbert said. “Many many people when they were younger went out there and many people today who are new in the Valley and know nothing about it and have never been out there. So, for the old timers it’s to go out there and remember their youth, and the newer people can learn something about the Red Knolls. It’s a very historically significant area.”

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Melinda Green stands beside her fused glass artwork which she makes in her own kiln.

Melinda Green, a local artist specializing in fused glass, told Gila Valley Central that this is the first time that she is showing her work.

“I’ve been in Safford for 35 years,” she said. “I love it. It looks like there’s a lot of people, and it’s going great. I hope that people will come down and enjoy it next year. I thought this was a great idea for Safford. Come on down. Everyone should come down, it’s a beautiful day.”

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Michelle James displays her .32-caliber Hopkins and Allen bordello gun.

Musicians and singers performed most of the day as event goers got to sample a variety of vintages of wine from local wineries in the state. The first singer to perform was Breanna White, who sang the National Anthem. Other performers included Darryn Kamae, Breanna DeRusha, and Lacy Brcye. Before lunch, the festival attenders were given the chance to watch a historic gunfight re-enactment by the Shaunessy’s Shadows performers. The Shaunessy performers use real gunpowder in their reenactments.

Brooke Curley Photo/ Gila Valley Central: One of the youngest of the Shaunessy’s Shadows performers, Patience Gonzales, stands at the ready in costume.

Michelle James, co-director of the Shaunessy Shadows performers, said while she and her husband had been acting for a decade the group was a recent incantation.

“We just started this group two months ago,” she said. “We’re just starting out with this group, but we love doing it. My husband and I call it black-powder therapy. (It’s) better than marriage therapy. We actually are characters – not necessarily based on facts – and we do little skits that could or may have happened but there’s no proof as if they did. But Safford does have a lot of history of the old west.”

Brooke Curley Photo/Gila Valley Central: Rich Bishop plays the no-nonsense marshal who deals out swift justice.

James and her gang first gave a lecture to the crowd on the dangers of firearms, informing the children to never play with guns. After the lecture, James and her gang perform a skit where two bank robbers cross the path of a quick-to-the-draw marshal. As always, the good guys win in the end.

The festival will continue Sunday as well.